Advocacy group policy scrapped at tense board meeting

Campus News

Consultations will take place before policy is reintroduced /

Monday’s UVSS board meeting had a higher attendance than usual. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

Interim Director of Outreach and University Relations Pierre-Paul Angelblazer had barely started to introduce the agenda for the March 26 UVSS Board of Directors before Third Space representative Isabella Lee jumped in.

The tone had been set: advocacy representatives felt strongly that there were changes that needed to be made.

Held in the SUB Upper Lounge, the board meeting featured quite a few students in the gallery. They were there because of newly written policy on the agenda that was considered problematic by the advocacy groups.

Their concern stemmed from a perceived lack of consultation on the policy, which, among other things, mandated that advocacy groups must turn over login information to their social media and websites. The policy would also have allowed funds to be drawn from the joint advocacy group trust account for any legal expenses incurred by a singular advocacy group.

Each of the advocacy groups were represented at the meeting — the board ratified Avery Ellis as a temporary representative for the Native Students’ Union (NSU) due to the fact that Bradley Thom, the NSU’s board representative, was unable to make it — and nobody minced words when it came to their frustration with the board.

The first point of contention arose when Lee proposed the removal of the controversial policy from the agenda. Mackenzie Cumberland, Director of Finance and Operations, objected. Cumberland had headed the policy development, and said that misinformation in the Martlet and other confusions about the policy underlined her need to fully explain the policy.

Lee and Joy Ngenda, representative for the Students of Colour Collective (SOCC), spoke most, criticizing both on the consultation process and the policy itself.

Lee said she could not discuss the motion until she had time to discuss it with her collective, and that Cumberland should take the time to meet with advocacy groups rather than expect their representatives to relay information back to them.

“I haven’t come here to force anything down people’s throats,” Cumberland responded. “I just want to explain this policy.”

Despite a hesitance on the board’s behalf to get too deep into criticisms of the policy, Ngenda pointed out that the proposed changes conflicted with existing policy and argued that policy should not require explanation.

“I believe that when policy is being written it should be being written so clearly that it cannot be mistaken for anything else,” Ngenda said.  

Four advocacy group representatives sit at Monday’s board meeting. From left: Joy Ngenda, Isabella Lee, Avery Ellis, and Willa Budz. Photo by Belle White, Photo Editor

Audrey Deutschmann, representative for the Society of Students with a Disability, agreed.

“Policy that needs to be contextualized is bad policy,” Deutschmann said. “Policy needs to stand on its own because that is how it is implemented.”

Deutschmann noted the hostility that Cumberland had personally faced due to conflict with Third Space last November, but said that ordeal meant she should not be the person writing policy that is designed to address similar circumstances.

“The result is aggressive and badly written policy that targets a group who are no longer active,” Deutschmann said, “forcing unrelated advocacy groups to pay the price for their misconduct.”

“I stood with you against the abuse of Third Space. I want to prevent future conflicts too,” Deutschmann continued. “However, these policies turn us into watch-dogs for each other’s behaviour. Pitting minority against minority is a policy made from such a place of superior privilege that the UVSS directors should be ashamed of permitting this travesty to reach the table at all.”

After Deutschmann spoke, Cumberland made a point of clarifying that she no longer felt safe discussing the policy in the meeting space.

Following some additional remarks from Deutschmann, Lee, and Ngenda — and 45 minutes after the meeting started — the board voted to remove the problematic motion from the agenda.

A recess was called, and Cumberland left the room. The board reconvened 15 minutes later, though Cumberland herself returned several minutes after that.

Policies that involved clubs and course unions were also tabled due to similar problems. At one point, Director of Student Affairs Kaitlin Fortier admitted that only “four or five” clubs had attended the Clubs Council meeting wherein the proposed policy was discussed.

“Policy that needs to be contextualized is bad policy,” Deutschmann said. “Policy needs to stand on its own because that is how it is implemented.”

During question period, the board discussed how to change the consultative process going forward.

Director of Campaigns and Community Relations Anmol Swaich said she did not know if a consultative framework between the UVSS and advocacy groups was outlined anywhere in policy, but there was clearly a need for something to be formalized.

Deutschmann recommended passing a change to policy that would require at least two advocacy representatives to vote in favour of any policy changes that directly affect them. Karina Dhillon, a Director-at-Large, threw her support behind the idea.

Ngenda, an eloquent and intense speaker for much of the night, laid out her demands clearly.

“I’d like to see policy not created for us, but with us,” she said.

In other business, the board approved the conversion of the Banner Room in the SUB to the Peer Support Centre. They plan to set aside up to $8 000 for the conversion, though that money must be approved at another meeting.

Cumberland also passed a motion that sees the board meeting on April 23 moved to April 16, so that more people are on campus when the meeting takes place.

Finally, students’ parents or guardians are no longer able to file health and dental plan appeals on a student’s behalf, unless legal guardianship has already been signed over.

In Attendance: Pierre-Paul Angelblazer (Interim Director of Outreach and University Relations); Anmol Swaich (Director of Campaigns and Community Relations), Noor Chasib (Director of Events), Mackenzie Cumberland (Director of Finance and Operations), Kaitlin Fortier, (Director of Student Affairs), Karina Dhillon, Christopher Dickey, Cameron Fox, Tanner Lorenson, David Stevanovich, Ramunas M. Wierzbicki (Directors-at-Large), Dheeraj Alamchandani (Director of International Student Relations), Willa Budz (UVic Pride), Joy Ngenda (SOCC), Audrey Deutschmann (SSD), Isabella Lee (Third Space), Avery Ellis (NSU).

Absent: Rachel Kelly (Director-at-Large)

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